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    The Vaticanus Manuscript

    The author endeavors to create the impression that the Vatican manuscript is a corrupted papal document, and refers to it in a slurring manner as having been “for man knows not how long, upon a shelf in the Pope’s palace,” and as being “of uncertain ancestry, of questionable history, and of suspicious character.” (p. 178.) No proof is submitted to substantiate this position, and the reader is evidently expected to accept such assertions upon the unsupported declaration of the author. Of course it is easy to appeal to religious prejudice by emphasizing the word Vatican and by assuming that any manuscript which has been handled by Roman Catholics must necessarily have been tampered with, when such a method will serve the author’s purpose.RABV 54.1

    In marked contrast with the unsupported assertions of the author in his effort to discredit the Vatican manuscript are the statements of recognized scholars in the field of textual criticism. Dr. F. H. A. Scrivener, whom the author declares to be “probably the foremost scholar of the day in the manuscripts of the Greek New Testament and the history of the text” (p. 169), declares: “We accord to Cod. B (the Vatican manuscript) at least as much weight as to any single document in existence.” His full statement runs thus:RABV 54.2

    Vatican MS equal to the best.—“Those who agree the most unreservedly respecting the age of the Codex Vaticanus, vary widely in their estimate of its critical value. By some it has been held in such undue esteem that its readings, if probable in themselves, and supported (or even though not supported) by two or three other copies and versions, have been accepted in preference to the united testimony of all authorities besides: while others, admitting the interest due to age, have spoken of its text as one of the most vicious extant. Without anticipating what must be discussed hereafter we may say at once, that while we accord to Cod. B at least as much weight as to any single document in existence, we ought never to forget that it is but one out of many, several of them being nearly (and one quite) as old, and in other respects not less worthy of confidence than itself.”—A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament,” by F. H. A. Scrivener, H. A., D. C. L., LL. D., Fourth edition of the Rev. Edward Miller, H. A., Vol. 1, p. 119, 120.RABV 54.3

    The following testimony is taken from a book which is used in our own colleges as a standard text book:RABV 55.1

    Vatican MS on the whole the best and oldest.—“Most New Testament Textual critics agree that B (Vaticanus) is, upon the whole, the best and oldest of the known manuscripts, but it must not be given absolute authority over all others. Westcott and Hort made large use of it in their text of the New Testament. In fact, both the Sinaitic and the Vatican codices until very recent times have not been accorded their full meed of authority. The Alexandrian codex had so long held the field almost alone, that only the strongest of arguments could win for these new documents in the field of New Testament criticism their proper places. B gives us, as does S, (Sinaiticus) ‘the simplest, shortest and concisest text.’ The charge that many important words are omitted is imaginary, say Westcott and Hort (p. 557). If B and S agree there is usually strong evidence for the genuineness of a reading; if it is supported by ante-Nicene testimony it is conclusive. Such concurrent testimony gives us the most ancient readings, that way be traced to within a century of the time when the original autographs were penned.”—” The Ancestry of Our English Bible,” by Ira Faurice Price, Ph.D., pp. 152, 153.RABV 55.2

    The next two quotations are from works of recognized value in the field of textual criticism:RABV 55.3

    Vatican MS most valuable of all.—“The oldest vellum MS., and the most valuable of all existing MSS. of the New Testament, is that commonly known as B (Codex Vaticanus graecus, 1209). This MS. has been in the Vatican Library, Rome, at least since the year 1481, in which one of the oldest extant catalogues was made. It once contained the whole Greek Bible, with the exception of the Books of Maccabees and the possible exception of the Apocalypse. In its actual state the New Testament lacks the Epistle to the Hebrews from chap. 9. ver. 14, the Pastoral Epistles, and the Epistle to Philemon also. The existence, and also the merits of the MS., were to some extent known in previous centuries, and during the nineteenth century our knowledge of it became gradually more and more accurate, the climax being reached in the superb photograph issued by Hoepli of Milan in 1904.”—” The Text and Canon of the New Testament,” by Alexander Souter, p. 20.RABV 55.4

    “This Vatican manuscript is considered by a great many scholars to be the best of all the New Testament manuscripts. The Sinaitic and the Vatican are, from the standpoint of the history of the text as thus far known, by far the two best witnesses for the oldest text. Wherever they were written and at whatever date, they represent, it would appear, as both Tischendorf and Westcott and Hort thought, good manuscripts of the second century. The word good is to be emphasized here. If the given view be correct, they represent not the current re-wrought, worked over manuscripts of the second century, but such as retained in an eminent degree the text which had come to that century from the hands of the original writers. The Vatican manuscript shows in the Epistles of Paul a few readings from those current manuscripts of the second century, but not very many.”—“The Canon and Text of the New Testament,” by Caspar Rene Gregory, pp. 347, 343.RABV 56.1

    In a recent book, “Where Did We Get Our Bible?” by “Rev. George L. Robinson, Ph. D, DD., LL. D., Professor of Biblical Literature and English Bible in Presbyterian Theological Seminary of Chicago,” the following statement is found concerning the Vatican manuscript:RABV 56.2

    Vatican HS most ancient and of incalculable value.—“Codex Vaticanus. This is regarded as probably the most ancient of all the Greek MSS. now known to exist. It is designated as Codex’ B.’ In 1448 Pope Nicholas V brought it to Rome where it has lain practically ever since, being guarded assiduously by papal officials in the Vatican library.... The value of the Codex as an ancient witness to the text of the Bible is incalculably great!”—pp. 110, 113.RABV 56.3

    On pages 122, 123 of this same book there is printed a tabular statement concerning “Ancient Bible Manuscripts Still in Existence.” On page 122 the Vatican manuscript is declared to be “Oldest and Best of All Greek MSS.”RABV 56.4

    Here also is the testimony of a scholar who can be recognized as an expert in judging manuscripts:RABV 56.5

    Vatican HS unquestionably superior in accuracy and authenticity.—The natural conclusion, therefore, would seen to be that the B, (Vaticanus) text (accepted by Westcott and Hort) still holds the position of superiority which was secured for it by the searching criticism of II; and this, on the whole, is probably the prevalent view today.... It is now, therefore, easy to obtain a text of the NT based upon the best available witnesses, as arrived at by a consensus of the most competent critics, and unquestionably superior in accuracy and authenticity to the TR. (Textus Receptus).”—F. G. Kenyon, Librarian of Manuscripts in the British Museum, in “Dictionary of the Bible,” by James Hastings, pp. 928, 929.RABV 56.6

    In view of the nature of the foregoing testimony and in view of the scholarship and standing of these Protestant writers, no argument is required to establish the conclusion that the author of this book under review has taken a prejudiced view of the MSS, and that his estimate of the Vatican manuscript rests upon no basis worthy of confidence.RABV 56.7

    It is nothing short of amazing to find that one who apparently fools competent to enter the field of Biblical criticism, designates the Greek historian Eusebius as “the author of the Vaticanus” (p. 22), while in the same book he strangely declares it to be “of uncertain ancestry” (p. 178).RABV 57.1

    Question of Catholic Influence.—Constant effort is made in this book to show that the R.V., and especially the A.R.V., has been greatly influenced by the Rheims New Testament, translated by Roman Catholics and published at Rheims in 1582, about thirty years before the A. V. was published. On the other hand, this declaration is made:RABV 57.2

    “Any thought that Catholicism had any influence over the King James Bible must be banished not only upon remembering the circumstances of its birth but also by the plea from its translators to King James for protection from a papish retaliation” (Page 98.)RABV 57.3

    In view of this statement it seems proper in addition to what has been given on previous pages, to quote more testimony bearing upon this whole question. The following statement is found in “Some Criticisms of the Text of the New Testament,” by George Salmon, D. D., who was himself a scholarly critic of the work of the Revisers:RABV 57.4

    “With one exception, to be presently mentioned, Hort never follows merely Western authority, so that his may be pronounced to be a thoroughly Protestant New Testament, the fact that a reading is Roman being regarded as enough to condemn it.”—Pages 86, 87.RABV 57.5

    The Greek text of Westcott and Hort was not adopted by the Revisers, who exercised their own judgment as to the text they would translate, but it is doubtless true that these two men, on account of their recognized scholarship, did have a strong influence in determining both the Greek text finally agreed upon and the translation of that text.RABV 57.6

    As to the influence of the Rheims translation over the A. V. at the time of its birth, the following quotations are of interest:RABV 58.1

    Influence of Rheims H. T. on AV.—“In verse 22 (Luke 16:19-31) the pleasantly quaint but archaic ‘yt fortuned,’ after holding its ground in one or two of the older versions, is conveniently changed into the more natural translation by the last revisers (of 1611), who probably took it from the Rhemish version, to which it is certain that they were from time to time indebted, though it was not one of the versions to which they were especially directed to refer.”—” The Revision of the New Testament,” Lightfoot, Trench, and Ellicott,” p. 61 of Ellicott’s portion.RABV 58.2

    “As a contribution to the interpretation of the Scripture it (the Rheims and Douai Bible, (1582-1609) is practically valueless; but, on the other hand, its systematic use of words and technical phrases taken directly from the Latin has had a considerable influence on our Authorized Version. Many of the words derived from the Latin which occur in our Bible were incorporated into it from the Rheims New Testament.”—” Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts,” by Frederic G. Kenyon, H. N., Librarian of British Museum, p. 229.RABV 58.3

    “The beginning of verse 15 (2 Thessalonians 2) brings out a polemical difference. The A.V., with really considerable boldness, here follows the Rhemish Version in opposition to all the earlier versions.... The authorities on which the revisers (of 1611) seem mainly to have relied (as their guide in translating the Greek text) are Beza’s Latin Version and notes, the Genevan, and the Rhemish Version. To this last version, though it was not in the list of their authorities, they were certainly more then occasionally indebted and commonly with advantage; as the Rhemish, with all its faults and asperities, was a translation of a really good version, and, at any rate, is very affluent in its vocabulary, and very useful in converting Latin words into English service.”—” The Revision of the English Version of the New Testament,” Lightfoot, Trench, and Ellicott, pp. 70, 81.RABV 58.4

    “If, however, there was an anti-Romish bias at work in these passages (previously quoted) let it be again remembered to the credit of the Translators (of 1611), (1.) that they removed many renderings which were known to give offence to Romanists, such as the word ‘images’ for ‘idols’ in 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:5; 1 John 5:21; and (2.) that in the case of renderings to which Romanists had objected, they put an end to all cavil by adopting the renderings of the Rhemish Version. In this way they freely admitted such terms as ‘ordained;’ Acts 14:23 (omitting ‘by election’); ‘confess,’ in James 5:l6; ‘tradition,’ in 2 Thessalonians 2:15; ‘regeneration,’ in Titus 3:5, and ‘church’ in Hebrews 12:23.”—“The Expositor,” Volume III, pp. 300, 301, Second Series, F. W. Farrar.RABV 58.5

    “More than half of these marginal references in the A.V. (edition of 1611) are derived from the Latin Vulgate, and preserve for us the fruits of the researches of medieval scholars and the traditional expositions of the Western Church.”—“How to Understand the Bible,” Martin Anstey, p. 106.RABV 58.6

    As to the plea of the AV translators to King James for “protection from a papish retaliation,” on which the author quotes part of a sentence from the AV preface, only this needs to be said:RABV 59.1

    Plea for royal protection.—The author then quotes part of a sentence in the AV preface. If he had quoted the entire sentence it would be clearly seen that the translators made just such a plea also to protect them from being “maligned by self-conceited Brethren (Protestant) who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil.” This is a fair sample of more than one of the author’s quotations where he leaves out one side in question, and includes only a part of the sentence or paragraph that suits his one-sided argument.RABV 59.2

    For further facts on Catholic influence over Erasmus’ “pure Greek text” as mother to the Received Text and the Authorized Version, see pages 5-7, Section II, of this review.RABV 59.3

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